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In years gone by, if you said the word stalking, chances are the images that may be conjured up are of an obsessed fan and a movie star.
But in actual fact victims of stalking and harassment are far more likely to be you, your friend, your family member or your colleague.
But what you may think is stalking and harassment, and the reality of what is laid down in law, may be very different.
So what is stalking?
“A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.”
Stalking can consist of any type of behaviour such as regularly sending flowers or gifts, making unwanted or malicious communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault. If the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing you fear, distress or anxiety then it is stalking and you should not have to live with it.
It was made a criminal offence in England and Wales in November 2012 with two new offences introduced: stalking, and stalking where there is a fear of violence.
Who can be a victim?
The simple answer is: anyone.
As mentioned at the start of this piece the example was given of a celebrity obsessed stalker who has never met their victim.
The reality is much different. Most victims will know their stalker but that does not mean that what is happening is right or any less of a crime.
Stalking and harassment can last from a few days to decades – and stalking that doesn’t include violence can cause real harm to their victims. Depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, paranoia, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder are all common side effects of stalking.
How can you show you are a victim?
One of the biggest challenges in stalking and harassment cases is showing the full picture of the offender’s behaviour.
There are some simple things that you can do to evidence experiences of harassment or stalking, these include:
How can you access support and report a crime?
There are numerous independent groups and charities that are specifically set up to help those victims of stalking and harassment. One of the best known is the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which was set up following the death of the estate agent in 1986 – a case that has never been solved.
The trust has a huge amount of training, help and advice on their website www.suzylamplugh.org – as well as a national stalking helpline available by calling 0808 802 0300.
You can, of course, report stalking or harassment to your local police force.
In Derbyshire you can report it online at www.derbyshire.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime/, by calling 101 if the threat is not an immediate emergency – and if you believe you are in immediate danger or your life is at risk then ring 999.
You do not have to be a victim to report concerns around stalking and harassment – it could be a friend, family member or colleague that you are concerned about and you can report these in the same way as noted above.